Tanis, Tannis, and Satan: A Stinky Herb and a Fishy Story

The second-century CE  Christian apologist Justin Martyr quotes the Septuagint Greek version of Isaiah 30:4 in support of his thesis that the Hebrew Bible contains tales of sinful angelic revolt against God. In the version of the verse he quotes, the Egyptian city of Tanis is said to be home to “rulers” who are “wicked angels,” making it, in Justin’s claim, a veritable hub of Satanic activity. The same city shows up in the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark as home to a stolen Israelite religious treasure, in retribution for which it is consumed by a massive sand storm sent by God. In his 1967 novel, Rosemary’s Baby, author Ira Levin wrote of a medicinal herb called “Tannis Root” which the scheming Satanists in his story use for their diabolical end game. The latter two of these Tanis/Tannis stories are definitely pure fiction. But what about the first one? If true, it would have provided an even better reason for God to destroy the city in Raiders and an even apter namesake for the Satanic herb in Rosemary’s Baby. If you want to get to the bottom of the alleged Satanic connections of the city of Tanis, you better be prepared for a deep dive into some complex textual and translational histories. As always, the truth is not for the faint of heart. Think you’ve got what it takes? Abandon hope and click here to enter.

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